The Kerryman – January 14, 2000
By Seamus McConville
The famous family of seven Casey brothers from Sneem has been reduced to one sole survivor following the death in Texas last week of 87-year-old Jim Casey.
The survivor is Paddy Casey of Kingdom House, who celebrates his 90th birthday next month, just 62 years after Jim emigrated to the United States in the year his brother Steve won the world heavyweight wrestling championship.
The village of Sneem in its centenary publication has Steve Casey as their “millenium man” for his feat in being world heavyweight wrestling champion from 1938 to 1947.
The story of the Caseys of Sneem is legendary. All seven brothers were superb athletes, who excelled in a variety of disciplines, including boxing, wrestling, rowing and tug o’ war.
Paddy himself was to have joined Jim and Steve and their brother, Tom, in the United States in 1938 but broke his back and injured his spinal column in a wrestling match in Manchester. That accident put paid to his sporting career but never quenched his intense interest in sport.
Jim Casey started life in America in Boston where he and his brothers Steve and Tom performed a rowing feat in 1940 that became legendary in that city.
They had issued a challenge to race any four men in the country in a four-oar sweep. It was their intention, should the challenge be taken up, to bring one of their older brothers, either Mick, Dan or Jack, out from Europe to make up the crew.
There were no takers. But Russell Codman, a single sculls oarsman of repute, offered to race the Kerrymen. Before a throng of 250,000 lining the banks of the Charles River, the Caseys thrilled the crowd as they filled the first three places in the four-man race. Tom came in first, with Jim a length behind and Steve in third place.
Governor Saltonstall of Massachusetts presented the Caseys with the Governor’s Cup in honour of their famous victory and the cup was one of Jim’s most prized possessions at his home in Dickinson, Texas, where he died last week.
Jim Casey subsequently was to set a record time of 6 minutes and 35 seconds for single sculls over a 2,000-meter course on the Charles River.
On the wrestling scene, Jim was conscious of the fact that he was living in the shadow of his brother Steve in the Boston area and he moved to California where he was to become West Coast champion.
Jim sparred with and gave instructions to such notable screen stars as Gary Cooper, Clark Gable and Burt Lancaster. The latter two had wrestled in the amateur ranks before finding fame and fortune on the silver screen.
After winning Canadian and southern America wrestling titles in 1944, Jim moved to Texas, where he appeared in matches all over the Gulf coast as well as in Dallas, Fort Worth and San Antonio.
It was during a match in Galveston in 1945 that Jim had an unorthodox first meeting with the woman he was to marry, Myrtle Gillmore. He was thrown out of the ring by an opponent and all 240 pounds of him landed on the lap of the young lady.
It was not exactly love at first sight but they met at a theatre a few days later and they were married within a year.
Jim was unbeaten in many more years of wrestling and among the men he conquered was the great Dan O’Mahoney, the Corkman who had been world champion before Steve Casey arrived on the American scene.
In more recent years, Jim Casey kept dog kennels at Dickinson and coached teams of astronauts in the art of tug ‘o war, which became part of their regime of training for trips into outer space.
Jim Casey is survived by his wife, Myrtle, his sons, Steve and James, daughter Patricia and brother Paddy.